CAMINO DEL SOL: DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
Francisco X. Alarcón
Darkness and night are mentioned in each of Alarcón’s poems, e.g., “from/the other side/ of night” (From the Other Side of Night); “for/the dogs/of darkness” (Love Plea); “Mother of the Night” (¡Tlazoltéotl!); and “to soothe/–like the night–/each other’s/wounds” (Desert Prayer). The darkness of night can provide positive things such as security, or it can be a threat; what does it represent in each poem? Cite specific lines as examples.
Who is the speaker in each poem? Is it one individual or might it be a group? From what side of the border is the speaker communicating? Cite specific lines as examples.
Each of these poems is a prayer, a beseeching; what does each say about the role of religion in Latino culture that? What does it say about the role, status, and power of the speaker? What is being sought in each poem?
Look at the different elements to which women are equated, e.g., mountains, goddesses, grandmothers. What role does the female play in the poems, particularly in ¡Tlazoltéotl! and Desert Prayer? What does this say about the role of women in Latino culture?
Look at the references to earthy elements within the poem, e.g., rivers, fire, wind, mountains, seasons, flowers. What is the speaker’s attitude toward these? What does this say about the value that may be placed upon these elements within Latino culture?
Much of Amateur Filmmaker occurs at night and in darkness. Note the instances and mentions. What does the darkness of night provide and/or deny the speaker? Cite specific lines as examples.
Who is the speaker in each of Arroyo’s poems? Note the images and words that indicate whether the speaker is male or female, which side of the border the individual occupies, the person’s status (including citizenship), and how these characteristics define his/her role in the surrounding world.
What specific words and/or images communicate anger and resentment in People of the Piñata and That Flag? Are these feelings covert or explicit – or perhaps both? What and/or who is the target(s) of this anger? What may be some underlying reasons for the anger and resentment? Cite specific words and/or images as examples.
What borders, e.g., social, geographic, generational, economic, emotional, does the speaker cross in People of the Piñata? How might these crossings/having to navigate all these borders contribute to the anger that drives the final lines, “I’m drunk and circle the piñata/shaped like a mule. I murder it.”?
What is legally required to be an American citizen? Does this criteria define who is American in That Flag? Within the poem, who claims, and who is denied, that privilege?
Language creates boundaries and separation in When I Was a Little Cuban Boy and Translation for Mamá. To explore this, consider the following:
Who is the speaker in each poem? Include whether the speaker is male or female, young or old, geographic location, and primary language.
Who is being addressed in each poem?
To whom can the speaker communicate/speak most clearly? In what language?
Does language identify the speaker as someone who does or does not belong? Cite specific lines as examples.
How, or does, language provide the speaker with access to privilege and status? What does the speaker lose in the gain of these benefits?
Consider the final lines of Translation for Mamá: “In English/you’ve learned to adore your losses the way I do.” What has the mother lost? What has been lost by the speaker? What does it mean that they “adore” their losses? Cite specific lines as examples.
Consider lines 31-32: “I have imagined you surviving by transforming/yards of taffeta into dresses you never wear.” (30) How is the mother’s dressmaking similar to the speaker’s translation of the mother’s experiences into English? Consider how both are acts of transformation, and the mother’s access to the results of each.
Look up Huitzilopochtili and Mixtlán. How does this knowledge provide another level of understanding in reading H. Writes to His Brother to Assure Him of Continuous Comfort in the Afterlife?
For those who believe, the afterlife is claimed to hold great promise. In H. Writes to His Brother to Assure Him of Continuous Comfort in the Afterlife, what are the benefits of crossing the border and entering the promised land? How is crossing a new life, and a death? Cite specific lines as examples.
What is the action that occurs in Animal Time? What role does religion play within the poem? What might it say about the role of religion in Latino culture?
What is the action that occurs in El Espejo Fumeroso? What does the title mean?
Lisa D. Chávez
What is the action that occurs in The Conjuror of the New Century? Consider the significance, if any, of the year 1893. Who is the speaker? Who is being addressed? In the final lines – “The entry fee is already paid;/this future is yours. Welcome/to your new world, a century/of dishonor, suffering, and pain”(36) – what is the price that has been paid for the new world and century? What is the dishonor, suffering, and pain that is found/gained? Cite specific words and/or images as examples.
How does the structure of the prose poem The Tattoo Artist affect you as a reader differently than a verse poem, such as The Bad Wife?
The body is literally marked in The Tattoo Artist, and serves as a living document and chronicle. Note the tattoos sported by the speaker and artist; how might these be significant as identifiers (e.g., of culture, status, class)? What other works have featured tattoos and/or the body as an identifier?
Consider the depictions of women in The Tattoo Artist and The Bad Wife. How are the expectations of women similar in each? Are there any differences? What comment are these poems making on the roles of women in Latino culture?
Consider the depictions of men in the three poems by Chávez. Cite specific lines as examples. How are the defined roles of men similar and different in each? What comment are these poems making on the roles of men in Latino culture? What borders exist between the sexes and gender roles in Latino culture?
Consider the action that occurs in each poem. Then consider the tone in each poem, e.g., is it angry? Resigned? Indifferent? Sad? What words and/or images provide clues to the tone? What comment does the tone make on the actions that occur?
Consider how the deaths of men are treated in Shrine and Nido. What comment does this make on their identity as individuals and as part of a cultural group? How is the treatment of their deaths similar to how the men are treated in life? Cite specific lines as examples.
In the poem Backyard, what specific words, images and lines communicate the following: freedom; being bound; opportunity/hope?
What does nido mean? How does the title provide another level of understanding the poem?
What is the action that occurs in Nido? What border/distance exists between the boy and the grandpa? What may have contributed to this distance? Cite specific words and/or images as examples.
What does the title Chilalengua mean, e.g., is it a real or fabricated location? What is the history of Chilalengua and how does it parallel historical events in actual Latino nations? The speaker describes the action as a dream. Consider that elements in dreams are often symbolic: What, or whom, might the sleeping and obedient dogs represent?
Consider the men depicted in Club Las Palmas, Pig, and The Tovar Bull, including their ages, class, status. What words and/or images within the poem provide clues to these characteristics? What comment do these depictions make on the role of men in Latino culture?
What are the occupations held by the men in Club Las Palmas, Pig, and The Tovar Bull? How do their occupations define and identify them, e.g., influence how they are viewed by others, particularly not of their culture or class?
How does culture influence and/or determine class and occupation in Club Las Palmas, Pig, and The Tovar Bull? How does work physically mark/mar the workers?
Consider the tattoos mentioned in The Tovar Bull. How do they mark and/or identify the wearer differently than the tattoos sported by the female speaker in Chávez’s The Tattoo Artist and The Bad Wife? What comment might this make on the boundaries that exist between the sexes?
The concept of home figures in To Know You Better, Letter from the Cumberland, and Epilogue. Consider who is the speaker in each poem. What is the home to which each poem refers (e.g., a place, time, land of origin for the speaker)? What boundaries separate the speaker of each poem from the home place?
Who is the speaker in To Know You Better? To whom is s/he speaking? What is the speaker searching for? Consider the final lines: "They recognize your sway in my walk,/Mother, and their heads/are heavy with disappointment." (49) What does s/he learn about what has been gained, and lost, in the course of his/her search?
Consider the actions performed by men and those performed by women in To Know You Better. How might these indicate boundaries between the sexed?
What is the action that occurs in Letter from the Cumberland? What might the crow and flight represent in the poem? Consider the final lines: "a bronze bird leans/over the edge, tipped wings spread/as if it could." (51) How might the implied inability to fly symbolize the speaker?
The girl being photographed in Epilogue is referred to as being from the town in which the action occurs. What boundaries separate her from the town and the people watching her? Cite specific words and images as examples.
Look up the story of Philomel and the symbolic use of the nightingale by poets. How does this knowledge provide another level of understanding the poem Darkling? For example, what statement might the poem be making about silence and identity? Cite specific lines as examples.
Rage, anger, and resentment have been addressed, or at least present, in poems such as Arroyo's People of the Piñata and Domínguez's The Tovar Bull. The anger expressed by the female speaker in Darkling is in the form of self-loathing. Can a connection be made between her sex and the self-violence? What comment might this make on gender roles?
What is the action that occurs in The Walk Like Old Habits? Who is the speaker and what is s/he in search of? Is the city the speaker wanders her/his home? What comment might the poem be making about identity?
Look up information regarding Del Rio, Texas, August 22, 1998. How does this knowledge provide another level of understanding the poem Where the Bodies, Half-Dressed, in Pieces?
The marginalized and the voiceless are undocumented in life and in death, as seen in Where the Bodies, Half-Dressed in Pieces, and Delgado's Shrine. The former focuses on lost women and the latter, on men. How, or does, sex influence how these lives and deaths, are treated?
Who is the "you" to whom the poem When living was a labor camp called Montgomery refers? Throughout the poem, what geographies does this "you" occupy? What are some of the images and ideals with which the "you" identifies? What comment(s) might this be making on the identity of "you"?
Consider the final lines of Softball and Tomato Fields: "in this game,/runners caught between bases are all picked off." (57) Who are the "runners" in this poem, and what are the "bases" between which they are caught?
Look up information regarding Operation Wetback in 1953. How does this information provide another level of understanding the poem Operation Wetback, 1953?
Consider how the men swept up in the raids are depicted/identified in the poems Softball and Tomato Fields and Operation Wetback, 1953, e.g., are they named individually in both poems?
Note how both poems use color to categorize and make a statement on how the undocumented men, and the immigration agents, are viewed. For example, the agents in Softball and Tomato Fields are "la migra, the brown horde of them" (line 2); while the husband in Operation Wetback, 1953 is remembered as a blue shirt and the "sky absorbs his patch of blue".
Maurice Kilwein Guevara
What is the action that occurs in Lyric? Who is the speaker? Note what is real, i.e., occurs in the speaker's waking life, and what is fantasy, i.e., may be a dream. What boundaries exist between what is real and fantasy? What boundaries exist between the speaker and Eunice?
What is the action that occurs in At the Podium? Are the events real, or are there also elements of fantasy? Consider also the heavy use of symbolism in Domínguez's Chilalengua. How might the use of symbolic imagery more sharply illustrate what the poet is trying to communicate?
What is the action that occurs in each section – a, b, c and d – of What Baby Gertrude Heard? Who is the speaker? In a, who is "he who dangles shoelaces from polished black/shoes over me" (lines 5 and 6)? Who is the "she" (line 6) in b? How does the reader know that time has passed in c and d? Consider that the first two sections attempt to capture dream images from infancy that cannot be put into words.
Juan Felipe Herrera
What connections can be made between the young men lost in blood night café and Delgado's Shrine? Consider age, geography, class, identity, and memorials.
What is the action that occurs in Ofelia in Manhattan, Circa 1943? Who is the speaker? Consider how music provides a degree of dignity and identity in an environment that is alienating – as is also seen in Domínguez's Club Las Palmas.
Look up the following terms used in Immigrant Fortune Teller Machine: Bobo, Chango, karma, Desert Storm, Tegucigalpa. How does this knowledge provide another level of understanding the poem?
Consider each line in Fuzzy Equations as an individual equation. What do each of the elements represent and how do they equal the results?
Rita María Magdaleno
How is the speaker's tour of the salt mines in Salzbergwerk: The Salt Mines Tour a "journey back/to my Mother" (lines 13 and 14)?
The mines are compared to a womb in the second and third stanzas. Within the context of the poem, how does this connection make sense?
What does the speaker learn by the end of the poem? What has the speaker lost? What connections can be made between this speaker's experience and that of the speaker in Falconer's To Know You Better?
1. How does the title Light Show set the mood and tone for the poem? How, or is, the action of the poem similar to a light show? Cite specific lines and images.
2. The use of night and darkness as metaphor in the poems of Alarcón and Arroyo was explored previously. What role does night play in Light Show, i.e., what does darkness provide the speaker? What occurs under cover of night that may not take place during the light of day?
3. What is the action that occurs in Prayer for My Brother? Who is the speaker? What do we learn about the speaker's brother through the poem? Cite specific lines as examples.
4. What is it that the speaker wishes for the brother in Prayer for My Brother? Cite specific lines as examples.
Look up the following terms used in Discovering America: Santo Niño, Chimayo, San Felipe, Cordova, pueblo, kiva, sipapu, nuevo méjico, maiz. How does this knowledge provide another level of understanding the poem?
Who is the speaker in Discovering America? Who is being addressed? What connections can be made between the earthy images used in this poem and those used by Alarcón in ¡Tlazoltéotl! and Desert Prayer?
The speaker in Discovering America says: “You thought/America/was on a map,/couldn’t see it/in a woman,/olive skin” (stanza four, lines 1 through 6). How is it an error to look for America on a map? What geographic space is it assumed the one addressed would identify as America? What geographies and cultures are included in the term America?
What does the title Remedios mean? Note the items the speaker takes to the "bargaining table" (line 2) to strike a peace accord with the body. Consider what each item represents and what they say about the space the speaker occupies.
The "you" addressed in Class Action has taken advantage of the speaker, and the speaker's tone is of one who will no longer tolerate such treatment. Who is being addressed – is "you" just one person, or may it also be a group, institution or geography?
Explore Heritage line by line to understand the action that occurs within the poem. Consider things such as words and images that communicate violence (by and against whom), and the differences between the past and present.
What are the worlds that exist in World to World? How do these realities coexist or reconcile? Cite specific words, images and/or lines as examples.
Note the different ways a bowl is held in Bowl. What purpose and role does a bowl serve in each stanza? Cite specific words, images and/or lines as examples. What statement might this communicate on perspective and point of view?
What is it that the woman in Wish wants? What has she been denied? Use direct references from the poem as examples.
What is the action that occurs in Backcountry, Emigrant Gap? How does this action lead to the final lines: "more lives move beside us/than we know"? (91)
What is the action that occurs in In Biruté's Camp?
Note the physical features, status, class, geography, and status of the woman in In Biruté's Camp. How might she serve as a symbol for the role of women in general? How might she also serve as a symbol for nations?
What is the speaker's tone in Why Can't We Just Get Along? The speaker begins section four by claiming, "I'm not an angry person, really". Would you agree? Cite specific words and images as examples.
What are some of the obstacles to harmonious coexistence presented in the poem Why Can't We Just Get Along?
What is an ode? Consider this structure when reading the poems by Mora, and how this knowledge provides another level of understanding the works.
Who is the speaker in Ode to Readers? What is the relationship between the speaker and the addressed? Consider the opening "Bien amados" (line 1) and "I offer odes simmered for years/without knowing you" (lines 7 and 8).
What is delivered to the reader and speaker in Ode to A Book? Cite specific lines and images as examples. Look up the following phrases used in the poem: canciones amorosas, mi libro, un mundo, un canto viejo, fresco, dulce, sonoro, canta. How does this knowledge provide another level of understanding the poem?
Geography is personified in Ode to El Paso. Describe the "you" addressed in the poem. Cite specific words and images as examples. What statement might this personification make about the value placed on nature? On women?
Note the words used to describe the sound of women, e.g., music, hum, jazzy, symphony, in Ode to Women. What statement does this make on the value and role of women? How does this result in the final lines: "Women,/the world's stubborn, triumphant hum"? (102)
What are the generational boundaries in Piñón Nuts, e.g., what things separate those of different generations? How are these boundaries and distances similar to those seen in Blanco's When I Was a Little Cuban Boy and Translation for Máma?
The Grandpa in Piñón Nuts would not teach the narrator Spanish. The Grandma taught the children bits of Spanish (tenth stanza, lines 3, 4 and 5). What is significant about the male and female division on passing along cultural knowledge?
What is the action that occurs in Why I'm Not Someone Else? What statement might this poem be making about identity? Cite specific words and/or images as examples.
Luis Omar Salinas
Look up the mythological characters Agamemnon and Paris. How does this knowledge provide another level of understanding the poem The Luxury of Darkness? How do these comparisons help the speaker "make sense of my tragic kingdom" (line 14)?
What has the speaker lost in The Disappearance of My Wife? Consider the imagery in the poem and how it represents various intangibles the speaker has lost.
What is an elegy? Consider this structure when reading Elegy for Desire, and how this knowledge provides another level of understanding the poem. For example, what dead/lost things are being lamented by the speaker?
Who is the speaker in Animalia? What does the reader learn about his background, history and culture throughout the poem? Cite specific examples from the poem.
The reader has 20 stanzas in which to learn about the speaker in Animalia. The neighbor in stanza 21 has only the brief moment at the window to see "a big naked/Cuban, rolled-up newspaper in hand, threatening to beat up his dog." (114) How might the neighbor's impression of the speaker differ from the reader's? What statement might this make about identity?
What is lost and what is gained in El exilio? What are the father's feelings on his existence in exile? Are they contradictory? Is there possibility for resolution? Cite specific examples from the poem.
What is the action that occurs in First Choice? Who is the speaker and who is being addressed? In the final line, "We unload it all into our field," (117) what is being planted other than seed? Cite specific words and images that carry symbolic meaning.
Assuming the speaker and the addressed are of the opposite sex in First Choice, who is male and who is female? Note the actions of each in the poem. What statement might these make on gender roles and expectations of the sexes?
Who is the speaker in For Keeps? Who is being addressed? Note the first and third lines: "In the opening petal of your eye, my face is a head,/...I tremble at the reflection I cast". (118) The speaker is concerned that her/his image in the eye of the beholder is not the complete representation of the self. Note other specific examples throughout the poem that illustrate this concern with perception and distortion. What statement does this make regarding identity?
Luis Humberto Valadez
Who is the speaker in dear reader: this is what i thought on easter day? What is the progression, evolution and transformation of the speaker's thoughts throughout the poem? Cite specific words, images and lines as examples.
What understanding has the speaker reached and accepted at the end of dear reader: this is what i thought on easter day? Is the speaker's sharing of this with the reader a political act? Must a poem be overtly angry to be political?
Note the creative use of language in radio. How do the lines of the first stanza recreate the incoherence of radio static? Consider this in interpreting the first two lines of the second stanza: "if you listen to the radio/it makes you feel impossible." (122) Who is being addressed and what things might feel impossible? What statement is being made on the connection between voice and identity?
Marcos McPeek Villatoro
What is the action that occurs in The Deer? Why is it significant that it occurs in Nicaragua, July 1985? How does this knowledge provide a greater understanding of the poem and its meanings?
What does the deer represent in The Deer? Consider the words used to describe the animal, and the place from which the animal appeared.
What is the action that occurs in El Salvador, 1932-1981? Why are the nation and years significant?
Consider the woman encountered by the speaker in the final three stanzas of El Salvador, 1932-1981. How are her actions symbolic of how women survive and the role they play – not only in times of turmoil but in daily existence?
In Part 1, Chapter 3 from The Region of Lost Names, Bugaloo tells Ernesto, "Good work is good work." (135) At what points in the excerpts does Ernesto not take pride in, or derive pride from, his work? Cite specific examples from the text. Why does Ernesto feel conflicted about his work at these points? Consider whether his feelings change with the type of work he does. In light of this, what is Bugaloo communicating to Ernesto?
What are the generational differences regarding attitudes toward work and labor, i.e., how does Bugaloo's view of work differ from Ernesto's? What might influence the difference of these views, e.g., age, status, education? What parallels can be drawn between the generational differences in work attitudes seen in The Region of Lost Names and in Domínguez's Club Las Palmas?
In Part 1, Chapter 3 from The Region of Lost Names, Ernesto states, "In that moment I had to let him know I knew his name; that Manuel Perez was not lost in all that blue." (137) What is the importance of names throughout the excerpts? Consider how different circumstances determine whether a nickname or formal name is used; also whether the Spanish or "anglo" version of a name is used. Cite specific examples from the text. How do names prevent, or perhaps facilitate, the loss of identity?
What boundaries exist in the excerpts? Consider instances of separation determined by generation, class, sex, education, geography, and cite specific examples from the text. What is lost, and gained, in crossing these boundaries?
Note the mentions of "blue" throughout the excerpts. For example, Part 1, Chapter 3 opens with, ""Bugaloo stopped, his purple scarf fluttering up near his left ear, its color deepeing all the blue we stood amidst" (135); and on page 137, Ernesto states, "I had to let him know I knew his name; that Manuel Perez was not lost in all that blue." How does the use of color communicate the importance of identity? What parallels can be drawn between the use of color seen in the excerpts of The Region of Lost Names, and in Garcia's Softball and Tomato Field and Operation Wetback, 1953?
Kathleen de Azevedo
Who do you think has determined the "Ten Rules for Latin actors" (146) listed in Chapter 20 of Samba Dreamers? How are these rules understood and enforced if they are not actually documented in writing?
Which "Ten Rules for Latin actors" are followed within the excerpts, and which ones are not? Cite specific examples from the text.
Chapter 20 ends with Rosea angrily wishing she could blow away Mr. Pink Polo Man multiple times, and "[t]hat's how the ending should go. End with a revolution. Viva." (153) What parallels can be drawn between the rage and violent wishes of Samba Dreamers, and in Arroyo's People of the Piñata and That Flag?
In Chapter 21, note the instances when Joe is referred to as Jose. What circumstances determine which name is used? What statement might this be making about identity?
Joe becomes angry in Chapter 21 when the old man Melvinor says, "You didn't fall into the water; you jumped in. And you jumped in because you wanted to drown." (156) Why would this anger Joe? Consider the circumstances that caused Joe to go into the sea in the preceding scene; and note the references to drowning in the closing paragraphs. What is Joe afraid of, and what may make him feel as if he is drowning?
Stella Pope Duarte
The reader learns the city of Juárez is dangerous for women in If I Die in Juárez: "They've uncovered the bodies of women, raped and murdered – young women, left out in the desert to rot. And of course, no one is talking." (163) What parallels can be drawn between the treatment of the deaths of women in If I Die in Juárez, and in Meléndez's Why Can't We All Just Get Along? Does the sex of the victims influence the manner in which the deaths are acknowledged, or not?
Many different boundaries exist throughout If I Die in Juárez. Cite specific examples from the text of boundaries determined by: geography; class; sex; and color.
Petra notes the silver fillings in Brisa's teeth and thinks "her father's life hang[s] in the balance because of holes in people's teeth." (165) What does this say about the value placed upon workers? Consider how color, class, education, economics, and geography may have influenced Estevan's labor options – and how he is, and is not, valued.
Petra and her family travel to Juárez for the promise of work and better care for Estevan, the ailing father. What promises, good and bad, does the city hold for the family? Consider whether the promise is different for women, e.g., Petra and her mother, than it is for men, e.g., Nico. Cite specific examples from the text.
What parallels can be drawn between the defiant phrase tattooed on Yvette’s fingers in A Scenic Night, (182) and the speaker’s tattoos in Chávez’s The Tattoo Artist? Consider not just the designs, but the women’s decision to be tattooed.
What boundaries exist in A Scenic Night? Cite specific examples from the text of boundaries determined by: geography; class; sex; and color.
What are the big expectations of the characters in Small Time? Cite specific examples from the text. What do they expect their schemes will achieve? How is the title appropriate?
What boundaries does Noelia Bustamante cross in Inner View? Can it be said that she occupies multiple spaces simultaneously? Cite specific examples from the text.
Noelia imagines her interviewer’s wife “wears rocks embedded in silver because she loves the culture” (199) in Inner View. What examples within the story contradict the Richardsons’ claimed appreciation for Southwestern culture?
What borders exist in La Luz? Cite specific examples from the text of boundaries determined by: sex, class, economics, geography, color, and status.
Julio reminds the narrator in La Luz it would be dishonest to go back on a deal, even if it is the sale of a human. It may not be right to sell people in America but “[t]hese guys aren’t Americans.” (211) How is “American” defined within the story? Who has the authority to define? What parallels can be drawn to what and who defines American in Arroyo’s That Flag?
3. The woman in La Luz is silent until the end of the story, when she identifies herself to the narrator. What does her silence throughout the story, particularly during the sale made by her husband, say about the role of women?
4. Besides Willie the pit bull, who else is lost in the short story Lost? Cite specific examples from the text that illustrate how your chosen characters are lost, or what they may have lost.
5. What significance, if any, does the Fourth of July hold for the characters in Lost? Consider the geographic space the characters occupy, and the access they have to the liberties celebrated on the holiday.
Patricia Preciado Martin
1. In La Tortillera/The Tortilla Maker, the narrator and her mother occupy the same physical space, i.e., the kitchen; yet what boundaries exist between these two women as they stand side-by-side? Cite specific examples from the text.
2. What does the mother fear the narrator has lost in La Tortillera/The Tortilla Maker? Cite specific examples from the text.
3. What contradictions exist in the rules for proper young women described in Amor Desesperado/Desperate Love? What is the ideal they represent? Is this ideal attainable? What does this say about the expectations placed upon women?
4. How are the rules and recipes in Amor Desesperado/Desperate Love learned? Who enforces these standards?
Ana Consuelo Matiella
1. Note the female characters in The Ring. What boundaries separate these women? Consider boundaries determined by class, economics, race, and age. Cite specific examples from the text.
2. At the end of The Ring, the narrator informs her comadre that she did not speak to her husband, “What good would it do?” (232) What comment does the narrator’s silence and her sleeping in the spare bedroom make on the status and role of women?
3. Consider the actions that occur in El Bebé del Vaquerón. What are the consequences for Neli? What are the consequences for Señor de la Peña? Patricio, Neli’s father, is imprisoned for his actions. Why were the consequences different for Patricio than for Señor de la Peña?
1. In Chapter 12 of The Peruvian Notebooks, Antonio Alday Gutiérrez realizes “he has abandoned and betrayed Alex Sosa in more profound ways than by forgetting him.” (235) In what ways has Antonio forgotten Alex? In what ways has he abandoned and betrayed Alex? How is Alex symbolic of other things Antonio has forgotten and abandoned? Cite specific examples from the text.
2. Note the different names used by Antonio Alday Gutiérrez. Within what environment and circumstances is each name used? What statement might this make regarding his identity?
3. At the end of the excerpt of The Peruvian Notebooks, Antonio Alday Gutiérrez agrees with Rhett Butler that “[n]othing changes by being sorry.” (243) What are the actions for which Antonio does not offer an apology? What has he accomplished that others only dream? What has he lost? Cite specific examples from the text.
1. In what spheres does Tuyi feel like an outsider in The Snake? Consider the characteristics that create these boundaries, including social, physical, geographic, generational, and educational.
2. In The Snake, Tuyi wins first place in a citywide mathematics competition. His accomplishment makes him the pride of his family, school, and neighborhood; yet why does he feel shame? Cite specific examples from the text.
3. The narrator in Punching Chickens attends the same school and lives in the same neighborhood as Pepe and Carlos. Despite geographic proximity and general similarities, what boundaries exist between the young men? Cite specific examples from the text.
4. Early in Punching Chickens, the narrator notes that “Pepe and Carlos were a little shy around me.” (255) Under what circumstances do the boys exhibit shyness, or seem less sure? What may cause this uncertainty? Note examples where the narrator is the one who exhibits shyness, and consider what causes his uncertainty.
5. At the end of Punching Chickens, the narrator showers to rid himself of the bird smell and waste; yet he feels the hot water didn’t really wash it away. Besides the waste, what else may the narrator have been trying to rid himself of, and besides the smell, what may have lingered with him?
1. In Words, the author writes that languages seem to her “secret passages to other voices and other things.” (269) How does she describe the different languages to which she is exposed? What does each of the languages, and its associated speaker, expose her to? Cite specific examples from the text.
2. The author describes Violeta Parra as a voice of the people. What symbolic significance is carried by her suicide?
3. The use of night and darkness as metaphor in the poems of Alarcón, Arroyo and Macum was explored previously. What role does night play in November 1, The Day of the Dead and Nights of Exile, i.e., what does darkness provide the author? What threats lurk in darkness?
Kathleen J. Alcalá
1. In My Week as a Mexican, the author describes life in California as “carefully measured” and escapes to Chihuahua, where “anything could happen.” (274) What are the differences the author notes in the two places that support these views? Cite specific examples from the text.
2. Toward the conclusion of My Week as a Mexican, the author writes, “I felt set apart by my duality, yet invisible.” (278) What things set her apart in each of the geographies she occupies? Within which geography is she most accepted and/or feel most at home?
3. Despite the title, the author of Found in Translation writes, “Much has been lost in translation.” (279) What has the author found and lost? Cite specific examples from the text.
4. Look up the story of La Llorona, the weeping woman; there will be different versions. Consider the consequences and penalties endured by the woman, and how they differ from those endured by the man. What statement does this make on cultural expectations based upon sex?
5. In The Woman Who Loved Water, the author cites that La Llorona “weeps wordlessly” and such an inability to speak up would prevent a person’s survival. How was Andrea Yates denied her own voice? How may this have contributed to her actions? What statement does this make on the value placed upon women’s voices?
1. In The Border is Open, the author writes, “I do not believe in the loss of home. Our private sounds and memories tell us where home lies eternally.” (296) Is home more than just a geographic location for the author? What are his homes? How do these homes define his identity? Cite specific examples from the text.
2. Heritage tourism, as described in The Border is Open, results in “strange tourist centers that draw outsiders to give them a distorted view of southwestern life as they leave their dollars… and go home weighed with pounds of Indian jewelry.” (302) Who determines the stories that are told through these centers and museums? Whose stories are being told? What parallels can be drawn between the cultural appreciation of the heritage tourists and Mrs. Richardson, the interviewer’s wife in Granados’ Inner View?
3. In A Different Border, the author describes the bi-tongue as having “[t]wo roots, two mouths, two ways of expressing how we live… in a region that has redefined what it means to live in the United States.” (305) What are the two different realities that exist at the border? How do these contradictions define those who occupy the space? Cite specific examples from the text.
4. The author describes El Paso as looking “like an armed camp” (306) in A Different Border. What threatens the security of the border, e.g., what needs to be kept out? How does the need for cheap labor complicate the drive to create an invulnerable border?
5. What is defined as American and what is defined as Mexican in the El Paso explored in A Different Border? Who determines these definitions? Like the border itself, are these definitions fixed or can they be fluid?
Luis Alberto Urrea
1. Look up information on Proposition 187. How does this knowledge provide another level of understanding the confrontation the author has with his mother in Nobody’s Son?
2. What labels have been used to define the author of Nobody’s Son? Include in your listing proper names, nicknames, and slang terms. By whom and how have they been used to define the author? What is the author’s attitude toward these?
3. The author writes, “The most dedicated Klansman spews the language of his adversaries while reviling them.” (328) What does he mean by this? What power do words have, according to the author? Cite specific examples from the text.
4. The author writes, “The fact of them was as unlikely then as the fact of myself seems to me now.” (328) What differences between his parents made them seem unlikely together? Yet what drew them to one another? What makes the author seem unlikely to himself and others? Cite specific examples from the text.